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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Why All Human Cloning Should be Banned

Sep 21, 2006

The push for human cloning continues around the world. Sure, most people say they do not want to see humans cloned, but they do want to see cloned embryos for research purposes. Yet as I and others must keep reiterating, the two processes – therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning –  are exactly the same, at least at the outset.

Both utilise the exact same process and both end up with the same result: a newly cloned human being. It is just that in so-called therapeutic cloning the human is killed very early on so that the stem cells can be extracted for testing, research and so on. In reproductive cloning, this new embryo would be allowed to develop, be implanted, and eventually be born.

It is vital that people understand these facts, as there is a lot of hype and misrepresentation about the two sorts of cloning. In this regard, an older (October 8, 2004) article put out by the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Chicago is worth revisiting. It nicely lays out the case as to why cloning must be opposed.

Written by John F. Kilner and Robert P. George and entitled “Human Cloning: What’s at Stake,” the article makes the case for a complete ban on all forms of human cloning. The authors begin by noting what the cloning process will produce: “A human individual brought into existence by cloning would be a member of the species homo sapiens. He or she would possess a human genetic structure and a rational nature. There is no reason to suppose that such a person would not possess the same basic dignity and be endowed with the same fundamental rights as everybody else.”

As such, cloning should be prohibited: “At the deepest level, cloning should be prohibited because it turns procreation into a species of manufacture. It treats a child-to-be as an object of production. In the words of Dr. Leon Kass, Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, cloning ‘threatens the dignity of human procreation, giving one generation unprecedented genetic control over the next. It is the first step toward a eugenic world in which children become objects of manipulation and products of will’.”

They continue, “Cloning also carries high risks of bodily harm to the child produced through cloning. Experiments in the cloning of animals reveals that a high percentage of clones of any mammalian species are born with, or develop, severe deformities or abnormalities. Indeed, Dolly the sheep, the most famous of all cloned mammals, was afflicted with a grave premature arthritis.” In fact, Dolly had to be put down prematurely because of these problems.

The article then focus on the two sorts of cloning: “Of course, some people try to distinguish ‘reproductive cloning,’ that is, cloning to produce a child, from what they call ‘therapeutic’ or research cloning – the creation of human embryos for experimental purposes in which they would be killed to harvest stem cells. This, however, is a false distinction.”

“All cloning is reproductive. A human embryo – the being created by human cloning – is nothing less than a human being in the earliest stages of natural development. You and we and everybody else on the planet were at an earlier stage of our lives human embryos, just as every reader of these words was once a toddler, and before that an infant, and before that a fetus.”

Furthermore, “no cloning is, properly speaking, ‘therapeutic.’ Cloning in the cause of biomedical experimentation is of no benefit to the subject of cloning, namely, the cloned embryo. On the contrary, that embryo is killed for the putative benefit of others.”

That is why a ban on all cloning must be demanded. The only way we can prevent cloning to produce children is if we see it all banned: “A mere prohibition of the implantation of cloned embryos will not hold up. There will be no effective way to prevent embryos created by cloning from being implanted in the prepared uterus of a willing woman.”

But what about the possible cures and therapies that might be derived from therapeutic cloning? “Of course, this is a worthy end; the ethical problem is with the means they propose to use. It is not simply that supporters have grossly hyped the “therapeutic” value of cloning – although this itself is an ethical issue inasmuch as it has unfairly elevated the hopes of many people suffering with neurodegenerative diseases and other afflictions. Let us not forget that the worst research atrocities in history have resulted from succumbing to the temptation to pursue scientific progress at the expense of a relatively small group who have been harmed in the process.”

Nor will considerations of sacrificing some for the sake of others suffice here: “The utilitarian idea that we can justify doing ‘a little’ evil for the sake of a ‘greater’ good should be firmly rejected. The norm that should control our scientific ethics, and our law, is the principle of the inherent dignity of every human being, irrespective of age, size, location, stage of development, or condition of dependency. Human beings – from the embryonic stage to adulthood – are always ends in themselves, and must never be treated as mere means to other people’s ends.”

And this must apply across the board: “This principle of inherent dignity should be applied with no less force to the cloned human being who is brought to birth and dwells among us. Once a human being exists, he or she is of no less value or dignity by virtue of the wrongful means by which he or she was brought into existence. Just as a human clone should not be killed before birth, he or she should not be discriminated against or in any way mistreated after he or she is born. The great political principle of human equality, rooted in the profound theological idea that men and women are made in the very image and likeness of God, demands no less.”

At stake here is the very notion of what it means to be human, and what is the value of human life. If we are to be sacrificed as research fodder for possible good ends, what of the means? It is one thing to voluntarily give oneself up for the sake of others. But to experiment on an unwilling victim, as an embryo is, is a violation of the basic principles of human medicine.

There are always debates about where we should draw the line. Surely the integrity and sanctity of human life must be one area where a line is clearly drawn and never violated.

www.cbhd.org/resources/cloning/kilner_george_2004-10-08.htm  

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9 Responses to Why All Human Cloning Should be Banned

  • This is a perceptive analysis, Bill. I am supportive of your views that cloning, whether for therapeutic or reproductive reasons, involves the destruction of human life (which I am convinced, biblically, commences at conception).

    I have found that evangelical Christian married couples who find themselves infertile, readily seek IVF treatment, without considering the ethical ramifications. A significant part of this, I believe, is related to so little teaching in the churches on these practical matters.

    I commend you for your substantive and challenging insights and pro-active stance on these critical matters in our culture.

    How do you think that we can address the biblical naivete on these issues in the local church? You are doing it on your website. We can do it one church at a time as you and I engage in cultural apologetics. However, what about the vast masses of evangelicals who don’t do much thinking in this area? Do you have thoughts on how to reach them? You might prefer to respond via my email address.

    Your perceptive analyses are so much appreciated.

    Your brother in Christ, way up north in Queensland.

    Spencer Gear, Queensland

  • Bill I always admire your articles and agree whole heartedly that cloning of all kinds should be banned.
    Fivos Panayiotou

  • O.k. So here’s my opinion. I agree with both sides of why cloning should be legal or illegal. I agree when people say that cloning should be legal because you could, partially, bring a loved one back if they died in a car crash or of a disease. Yes, I know that they couldn’t really bring the person back, but the thought that the person was kind of there would make me feel better. But I also agree that cloning should be banned because of the people out there who would use their organs for their personal use. It’s so wrong that anybody would do that. Im 14 and I just finished reading the Scorpion book. I’m doing a project on it right now about how cloning should be banned. If you’ve ever read that book you would know how sick El’ Patron was and how sweet Matt was. But they were the same person. The book though was amazing, and I highly recommend it. Great article. I agree 100%.
    Danika Pittenger

  • Your article is very well written and I found it to be very informative. At first my perception of human cloning was more closed and biased, I was instantly against an issue like that. Your article helped me to understand why people would want to do this and I guess it depends on your personal situation and moral beliefs. I am wondering how this issue will affect us a hundred years from now and I just hope it stays under control.
    Sara Strohmer

  • I totally agree the part about them killing them early – really made me realise that cloning is pointless.

  • Very well written, helped me write my science debate, thank you for such knowledge xx

  • Uh, I agree a lot actually. I think that cloning is just making another person that’s you but it’s not and the darn THING doesn’t have a soul. Have you ever watched the movie, The Sixth Day? Well, if you have then what if cloning turns out like that? Then our world will be doomed and helpless all because of these scientists who don’t realize we all could have really bad lives.

  • I am curious to your position on this: if we could clone individual organs and maybe even blood and marrow and bone and skin without having to clone a whole person would that be ok?? Since individual organs blood and parts would not have a soul and would not not require killing a person wouldn’t that be acceptable??? With such a need for organs and blood and marrow cloning like this might help keep people from dying waiting for a organ etc.

  • Thanks Paul. Actually much of that has been done for some time now, and without moral problems. Copying skin tissue or other bits and pieces is not to clone an entire human being. So it can be done in a morally licit manner with adult stem cell research as apposed to embryonic stem cell research, which results in creating then killing a human embryo. See here eg.:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2005/09/02/the-stem-cell-debate/

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